A win’s a win, but the Wallabies did little to silence their army of critics or inspire hope for significant improvement in the near future with their 40-27 defeat of Italy at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Australia led by just one point with four minutes to go before a pair of late tries gave them some breathing space, with the Azzurri mounting a superb second-half fight-back.
The Wallabies, smarting from last week’s defeat to Scotland in Sydney, held a commanding 28-13 lead after 45 minutes following doubles to recalled winger Sefa Naivalu and in-form fullback Israel Folau.
But the tourists struck back with tries to fullback Edoardo Padovani (64th minute) and replacement Tommaso Benvenuti (68th) in quick succession – one from a Wallabies fumble, the other an intercept – to set up a nerve-wracking finish.
Bernard Foley eased fears of another upset loss when he crossed next to the posts in the 77th minute, while Reece Hodge finished off an exciting long-range movement in the dying seconds.
Aside from Naivalu and Folau, the Wallabies’ standouts were No.12 Karmichael Hunt – who threw brilliant cut-out passes for two of his side’s tries – and giant lock Adam Coleman, easily the hosts’ best forward.
The green-and-golds’ next assignment is against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 19 – which shapes more as a suicide mission than a Bledisloe Cup Test if both nations’ form can be used as a rough guide.